"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
August 8, 2012
Thoughts on Living Intentionally
by Kathryn Grant

It was a scene that repeated itself many times during my school years. On the first day of class, along with other eager, slightly nervous students, I looked over the course outline: Assignments, quizzes, maybe a group project. Then my stomach would lurch a little upon seeing the midterm and final exam, usually counting for a pretty substantial portion of the grade. However, that feeling would almost immediately be followed by a sense of relief: "It's so far away. I really don't have to worry about it right now."

Then, suddenly, the test that had been months away was tomorrow. Not surprisingly, my comfort level at that point depended almost entirely on how well I'd prepared.

Do you ever feel as though eternity is far away? Most of us probably do. Much like the students in class, we know the day of reckoning will come: we'll pass beyond the veil to a future that includes our ultimate judgment by a loving God. Even though it seems distant, it is real. It will happen.

The potent combination of passing years and scripture truth brought this reality to the forefront for me a few years back. As I imagined myself in that future interview, I realized I didn't feel ready -- not because I imagined the Lord would be harsh or judgmental, and not because my life was terribly out of control, but because, frankly, I hadn't given that future event much thought!

I saw that if I wanted to be ready, I'd need to live my life more intentionally -- to take charge of my own progress rather than leaving it as much to chance. I'd need to take initiative with the wonderful gift of agency I've been given, rather than letting life "happen" to me, rather than just going with the flow and pressures of daily living. I would need to be more deliberate in acting on inspiration, counsel given in blessings, and truths in the scriptures.

My first attempt at living more intentionally involved writing a mission statement for my life.1 I thought about the talents the Lord had given me, reviewed my patriarchal blessing, and then wrote and rewrote until I developed something that was meaningful to me. I even printed a copy and put it on my bookshelf so I'd see it often.

And there it stayed -- in sight, but still out of mind. Clearly, I needed to adjust my approach.

About that time, I discovered another tool called the "daily list of intentions."2 This list consists of statements written in the present tense that describe ways a person wants to live. These statements are more detailed and specific than a mission statement, but they can support a mission statement. And they're called "daily" for a reason: they're reviewed at the beginning of the day, perhaps even memorized and then written each day from memory.

I began the intriguing task of writing personalized daily intentions that would inspire and guide me. I thought not only about things I valued, but weaknesses I needed to guard against. Here are a few examples from the list I came up with:

  • I live in thanksgiving daily.
  • I cultivate humility.
  • I actively seek to forgive others and to avoid holding grudges. I seek healing and peace.
  • I trust the Lord's promises to me.

These daily intentions aren't written in cement; they can be adjusted to meet your needs as you walk through life.

Now that I had a mission statement and daily intentions, I didn't want them to sit forgotten on my bookshelf. The solution turned out to be phenomenally simple. I made my list of daily intentions and my mission statement the first item on my daily task list -- a simple choice that got me in the habit of reviewing them every day.

And I've noticed it's making a difference. I'm training my mind to think every day about things that really matter to me. I'm reminding myself regularly of the person I want to become. Although there's still plenty of room for growth -- or probably because there's room for growth -- it feels right to be preparing a little each day for the inevitable future time I meet with the Lord to review my life and what I've done with the gifts He's given me.


1In his book First Things First, Stephen R. Covey offers valuable guidance on writing a meaningful personal mission statement. See Chapter 5, "The Passion of Vision."

2See chapter 10, "Scripting Your Daily Life," in Write it Down, Make it Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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